Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Products I've Used Up/Empties Vol. 4

I have a HUGE empty products review to share with you all! I have been accumulating this pile for a few months but never got the time to jot down my experiences. But now, I have decided that I am going to write about the used up products as soon as there are 5-7 of them. That will make this process way more easier and less time consuming! 

By the way, I am super impressed with this pile. If I can finish more products, I can buy more and try more :-)

Shahnaz Hussain Sharose Date Enriched Skin Toner: Shahnaz Hussain is a very loved and reputed “luxury” skincare brand in India. I remember finsing her products in the vanities of my cousin sisters back in the day Originally my sister bought this tube but she developed some allergy so I brought it here from my last trip to India. I really liked it. It is a potent toner! Not too strong but very efficient. 

Naturepro Herbal Sun Protect: I hail from India and Indian summer is brutal. It’s humid, sweaty and not at all fun for the skin. Because of the extreme humidity all sunscreen I had tried would sit so heavy on the skin that it was almost impossible to wear sunscreen without feeling like a sweaty hot mess. This rescued me. On application it gives you a cool feeling and it absorbs quickly! I buy it when I go home! This is my 2nd or 3rd tube. :-)

Himalaya Herbals Purifying Neem Face Wash (200 ml/150 INR): Current favorite brand from India. It’s a brand that markets itself as herbal and pure! Neem is an evergreen tree that has a lot of medicinal quality; in India neem has been widely used for ages for skincare purpose primarily for its antibacterial qualities. I use it as my morning facewash. I generally bring them when I go home annually but you can find them in most of the Indian Grocery store. I have gone through at least 5-6 bottles of this :-)

Ruby Crystal Ruby Falls Sugar Crush: The scrub itself was ok, but the packaging was awful. The opening was too tiny that it took me forever to squeeze out a decent amount to use in my whole body. The tube was getting splitting up at the side…basically it was a nightmare to use up. I refuse to waste any product so it was really annoying and needed a lot of patience to finish this tiny tube up. Definitely not buying a full size.

MURAD clarifying Cleanser (6.75 fl oz/$28): I bought this in a 15$ kit that came with 2 other acne clearing products. You are supposed to use it with each other. Anyway, when I first used it for a week I did not like it at all! It was too strong for me. I did not want to keep using it and almost thought of returning it. But after some gap, I was still suffereing from acnes and restarted using it. I do still have one or two occasional acnes here and there but it has stopped from being crazy. I did not use the other two products that came in the kit meaning I did not follow the instructiosn one by one. I was kinda scared that all three will be too strong for me to use at the same time. However I really enjoyed using it towards the end. But I am not really sure if I will repurchase it. 0.7 fl oz/21 ml.

Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask (3.4 fl oz./$25): I first tried this over a year ago. I bought the set of 4 pods (just like “Out of Trouble” mask pods pictured here) and I am hooked ever since! I collect mini samples from Sephora whenever possible- I have the full size too. It clears up my pores, tightens my skin and brings a lot of liveliness to my skin! I simply LOVE this mask.

Perfume Samples: Marc Jacobs Daisy, Replica and Viva La Juicy! these are so convenient to keep in my purse for a mid day pick up application :-)

Nivea Hydrating Lip Care with SPF 15 (0.17 oz./$2.99): My most favorite lip balm from the drugstore. I love all the different types that comes in this line and SPF 15 in it surely is a bonus. I have a few lip balms in to get through but I am almost nervous that I have not repurchased it yet :-)

Marc Jacobs Lust for Lacquer in Kissability: I got this in the Sephora Favorite “Give Me Some Lips” set from 2014 (reviewed here). I did not expect to like this but I finally ended up loving it. First of all, isn’t the size adorable? It fits perfectly even in my smaller wallets. “Kissability” is a rosey-hued pink with some almost-unnoticeable golden shimmers in it! It has a bit minty tingling feel when you first apply, but nothing overwhelming. It’s light weight and applies very sheer; I loved to reapply it on top of my regular lipstick towards the very end of the day. I am not able to find this range in Sephora anymore but I really hope someday it comes in a small kit with 4 tiny tubes; that will make me a happy girl! :-)

Clean Skin Perfume (1 oz./ $38): I got this in a Sephora value set. It is a very clean fragrance and I absolutely love it :- ) And the size is just perfect for my purse and or handbag! I am thinking of investing in the Holiday set they currently have available.

Origins Out Of Trouble™ 10 Minute Mask (3.4 fl oz./$25): It’s a bit stronger than the charcoal mask. I was having horrible breakout a few weeks ago! It is by no means a miracle product but I do feel it has cleared up a lot of my skin trouble. I have 3 more pods to finish, but I do see myself buying the full size.

Loreal new Sublime Sun Suncreen (No longer available, cost me around $7): Can you tell how sincere I am with my sunscreens? This is another favorite. Absorbs quickly, sits well under makeup and is a very good sunscreen.

Aveeno protect+hydrate lotion sunscreen (3 oz./$10.99): Another sunscreen! For last year or two I have been using this religiously. I did not have a lot of experience using it underneath makeup but it is really great as sunscreen. This has saved me from sun burn when I had long days working outside as a field engineer. I want to repurchase it once I am out if my current one but I cannot find it anywhere :-(

Aveeno Smart Essentials Daily Moisturizer (2.5 fl oz/$16.99): This is an expensive product from the drugstore. Actually this particular review comes from a friend as it is his used up product :-) It is a good product if you are just looking for sunscreen and moisturization. A nice mild smell would really make it a even better. I tried it under makeup and I loved it but I think Aveeno as brand has some good skincare products. 

Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask (5 oz./$45): As mentioned in their website, Cucumber and Rose masks have different purposes! But apart from their fragrance I don’t feel much of a difference. The Rose one is slightly heavier on the skin than the cucumber one. It is very light, simple and easy mask to incorporate once or twice a week in my skincare routine. I already have repurchased it.

Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Gel Mask (5 oz./$45): I have reviewed the set I got from Sephora here. I love these masks! The texture of these is like soft jelly so it is pretty easy to put on. If my skin is feeling rough, dry and dehydrated I use this as rejuvenating mask. I used to travel quite a lot and whenever I had air travel, I would use this the night before! It surely helps in tackling the dry skin following air travel.

Philosophy Hope in a Jar Moisturizer for Dry Skin (2 oz./$42): This is my second bottle :-) I did not expect to repurchase it after the first bottle but Ulta had an incredible deal and I ended up buying it. I do like it :-) I have a very detail review here. It is a good moisturizer; but not enough for my dry skin during the cold chilly moths in the windy city. By the way Philosophy has reformulated this moisturizer.

Olay Active Hydrating Cream – Original (1.9 Fl oz./$6.49-7.99): Another nostalgic product! I remember my first encounter with this product very vividly. I remember how refreshing and moisturizing it felt on my skin. It was expensive compared to what I was using at that time and I could immediately notice a huge difference. I felt pampered! :-) I used it religiously for almost 3-4 years but I have now slowly grown out of it. (Mostly because I love testing out new products)…Maybe sometime in the future, I will buy it again :-)

Ulta Cotton Balls: Nothing to say about it. Gets the work done and I will definitely repurchase :-)

Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes (25 Ct./$5.99): I had to return the Miceller Water from "Simple" because it burnt my eyes :-( But I totally enjoyed these wipes. They were moist, removed my makeup gently, I have to use a face wash also but I totally enjoyed it. Will surely repurchase. 

Clarisonic Brushhead: I have been using Clarisonic off and again for per last 2 years and I intend to review it thoroghly some day.  

Bare Minerals Purely Nourishing Cream (1.7 oz./$28): It was tiny little sample jar. The consistence was very waxy and I totally did not like it. 

CK One Color Mascara (0.31 fl oz./$18): It was the birthday gift from Ulta last year, I used it idle for 2-3 months before I started using it. It was an OK mascara! It separates and gives decent looking lashes. But it smudges and it was so damn hard to wash off at night. It takes a lot of time to remove and I simply don't have the patience. Definitely not buying it! 

Laura Geller GlamLASH Dramatic Volumizing Mascara (0.28 oz./$24)I loved the wand on this. It's the perfect size for my hooded eyes. It's a good mascara, It does not give you the most luscious lashes which I don't prefer anyway! I would definitely like to get it in a value kit may be :-) as I don't typically buy full size mascara. 

Lakme ABSOLUTE Flutter Secrets Volumizing Mascara (7.5 ml/INR 675): This is the first mascara I ever tried and I loved it! I have already used one up but this one disappointed me. The wand tip broke off inside the tube just after 2-3 weeks of use; there was no way to use it after that :-) I blame myself because it was sitting unused for 2-3-4 months.

MAKE UP FOR EVER Smoky Extravagant Mascara (0.23 oz./$24): This is my most adored mascara till date. I got it from Sephora for my birthday last year! It is still in working condition but I should probably throw it out. It gives naturally voluminized look to the lashes, very simple and yet defined! I already have another mini in my stock.

Algenist Advanced Anti-Aging Repairing Oil (1 oz./$79): This is very light face oil. I used it during summer on my unfortunate dry patches. It's a crazy expensive product; it worked fine but I am not encouraged to invest in a full size. 

Ole Henrikson Truth Serum Vitamin C Collagen Booster (1 oz./$48): How adorable is this bottle? I really like this serum, it is not a miracle product but it is something I have grown fond of! I got this for my mom too the last time I went home and looks like she is enjoying it too! Good thing is that Sephora Favorites Set generally includes this in smaller size; I am currently using one such adorable bottle. 

Bath and Body Works “Japanese Cherry Blossom” Shower Gel: It would not be an “empties” blog post without a Bath and Body Works product! This particular flavor brings back a lot of happy memories; I believe someone gifted me years ago and it was the first beauty product from US that I tried back in India! I will definitely repurchase it.

Few more holiday kit reviews coming soon....Keep posted :-)


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Holiday 2015: "Sephora Favorites Superstars" Review & Swatches!!!

Originally I planned for a consolidated blog post sharing my thoughts on a lot of limited edition palettes and value sets that have come out for the 2015 Holiday Season. But I am simply not having enough time to extensively research on the sets I want to include. Instead, for now, allow me to share my 2nd pick from these very tempting gift items! Meanwhile, I am absolutely loving Bite Beauty Rewind set which was my very first choice…check it out here!

Today I am talking about this year’s Sephora Favorites Superstars (It’s going to be a long post :-) )! I love these Sephora Favorites Sets although my interest level drops if it costs me more than 50 bucks! :- ) But when I was going through all holiday sets from different companies, this set interested me the most primarily for these reasons -
  • Out of all the sets, I found that this gives me the most return for my money- quality and quantity wise.
  • Sephora included some of the best and most popular products. A lot of which I never tried.
  • Beauty Blender and Stila Eyeliner are some of my holy grail products.

Let’s talk about the price. It is a Sephora Favorite so it is obviously a good deal! You can find it in Sephora Retail stores and on Sephora.com at a price of $75. It is marketed to be of $207 value set I followed my own method and per my calculation the value of this kit is 212$ (220$ if you consider the price of Smashbox Primer in travel size). Here is the price break down :-)

Amount in Kit

in Full-Size
Full-Size Price (USD)
Value in Kit (USD)
Beautyblender® original
Full Size
NARS Dual Intensity Eyeshadow in Himalia
Full Size
0.05 oz.
Urban Decay Eye shadow in Lounge
Full Size
0. 05 oz.
Stila Stay All Day® Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner in Intense Black
Full Size
0.016 oz.
Touch in Sol Stretchex Stretch Lash Effect Mascara
Full Size
0.24 oz.
Lancôme DRAMA LIQUI-PENCIL™ Extreme Longwear Eyeliner in Noir Intense
Full Size
0.042 oz.
Benefit They're Real! Mascara
0.1 oz.
0.3 oz.
Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlight
Full Size
0.21 oz.
Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Highlight
0.06 oz.
0.26 oz.
Tarte the Sculptor Contouring Face Slenderizer in Park Ave Princess™
0.06 oz.
0.09 oz.
Tarte The Slenderizer Bamboo Contouring Brush
0.035 oz
Available in doble sized brush
MAKE UP FOR EVER Step 1 Skin Equalizer Hydrating Primer / Base Step 1 Skin Equalizer
0.16 oz.
1 oz.
Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water  
1 oz.
1oz/3.9 oz 

Basically it is of incredible value. Let’s discuss the products one by one before the post gets 100 pages long :-)

Beauty Blender “the original”: I waited so long to try this! But when I finally did try it, I have been in UTTER love. I have been using this since this Spring. It makes foundation application so darn easy! As instructed I use it little damp to apply my foundation and within a minute I have amazing flawless skin. It works the same way with foundation and BB creams! You need to try this!

MAKE UP FOR EVER Step 1 Skin Equalizer Hydrating Primer / Base Step 1 Skin Equalizer: MUFE is one my most favorite brands! I am disappointed in the size though. You have just a week or at most, 10 day’s worth of product. All the other items in this kit are decently sized. It did a good job as a primer. My makeup held on good, but around my mouth where it typically gets dry the foundation started to break towards the end of the day. I like it but I am not 200% impressed with it yet.

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water: Everybody loves this product. I was not sold on this first but now that I have been using it constantly, I am slowly falling in love. It has a nice spritzer that works great in dispersing even amount. I have used it under makeup as well as a setting spray and it does a good job in elongating the wear time of my makeup, including my lipstick :-) I am very much enjoying this right now but I am yet to be impressed enough to recommend this to you to go out and buy it in full size.

Benefit Cosmetics "They're Real! Mascara": Honestly, I am a little annoyed with Sephora for putting this mascara in each and every set. A lot of people love it. I don’t like the plastic bristles and I don’t enjoy how it makes my lashes crisp and separate. But I do grab it when I need to wear waterproof mascara and also when I am photographing for the blog. So while it is not my most favorite, I still find use for it!

NARS Dual Intensity Eyeshadow in “Himalia”: Thanks to my value set addiction, my NARS collection is slowly growing :-) :-) :-) I have shared many times before that I find the most pleasure while playing with colors when makeup is concerned; so neutral shades like this do not excite me as much as a blue eyeshadow. But now that I have a more conventional work environment and can wear a bit of makeup every day, I am finding “Himalia” to be extremely useful! It’s a perfect “One-shade-and-done” lid color! I thought it would be much lighter but I am so glad that it’s a little deeper. It is a taupey bronze in metallic finish. VERY pigmented, very easy to apply and blend, even with my finger. It does stay a decent time without primer; with primer it has a wear time of around 6-7 hrs. and then it starts to fade while still looking gorgeous. I adore the packaging - minimal, elegant, has a magnetic closure and I love the embossing on the eyeshadow itself :-) I have slowly started to ponder that NARS rocket-high prices may just be justifiable.

Urban Decay Eyeshadow in “Lounge”: Such an elegant metallic duo-chrome shade and Urban Decay does the best metallic. It has an intense olive green/teal shimmer on a coppery reddish brown base. It is a fun, fancy color to swatch and to use :-) And it is sophisticated enough to use it subtly for an everyday look. It is not crazy pigmented so I need to use 2-3 layers to get an even and intensely pigmented look. I did try using it wet and it looked a little more foiled then using dry! It lasted with the same intensity for more than 10-11 hrs! I will never pay full price considering it is neither an extremely unique nor innovative shade! But the more I am using it the more I am falling in love.

Stila Stay All Day® Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner in “Intense Black”: I got this last December in one similar set exclusive to Sephora inside JC Penny. It’s one of my MOST favorite eyeliners. I use it in rotation with some of my other favorites. Its waterproof, has a felt tip and the finish is slightly glossy. It applies smoothly and truly stays all day. Whenever I want to ensure that I get a quick and easy wing liner that needs to last all day, this is what I use. I simply adore this liner.

Touch in Sol Stretchex Stretch Lash Effect Mascara Sol Mascara: It is a lightweight lengthening mascara and it does give serious length to my tiny lashes! It is not volumizing. I am not crazy about extreme volume or curls on my lashes so that’s fine with me. I love the wand too; it is little curved, not too big or too small. Perfect for my small hooded eyes. Sephora website says that you can remove it with warm water, but no! You need a strong makeup remover for this.

Lancôme DRAMA LIQUI-PENCIL™ Extreme Longwear Eyeliner in Noir Intense: This a fairly new product line from Lancôme. There some kickass shades like pink and yellow and periwinkle blue :-) This is the black shade and it stayed for a long time on my upper lash line. But on my waterline, I have to keep applying it for 2-3 times to get the color to cling on to it. It did not tug and it did not hurt to apply that many times but it was annoying. Once I could get an even application it did last at least for 5-6 hrs. I have similar types of eyeliner so it is by no means a must-have product for me. But I can still never have too many black eye liners as I am always going to use them!

Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlight: Before I tried Champagne Pop from Becca, highlighters never interested me. Now I want to try everything :-) It’s a giant cream highlighter, extremely pale baby pink shade with very minuscule shimmer speckles…nothing too metallic though! Very creamy and super blendable. Being so creamy, I did not expect it to last long but I could see this glowing beautifully at the very end of the day! It’s a strong and extremely pigmented highlighter! If you like a subtle, simple makeup I would not recommend this, but personally I am loving it!

Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Highlight: So many beauty addicts over the world are mad about this highlighter. I have never been interested in it mostly because of its steep price. But I am always excited to try things that are so widely loved, that too at a fraction of full size price. I really love the size of it, it is so much better than the full-size. In my experience baked product has a nice fluffy and creamier type of formula. But I felt this one is a little dry when swatched. It applies a bit dry as well! It would be perfect for oily skin but I personally prefer a less dry formula. Having said that I have to agree that I am really enjoying it. It’s very pigmented, blendable and long lasting.

Tarte the Sculptor Contouring Face Slenderizer in Park Ave Princess™: I love cream products in general; it is so much easier to work with my dry skin. I don’t have a huge interest in contouring but once again it is proving to be very useful in giving my face a little bit of shape especially when I am photographing new product application for this blog. At first look it appears slightly warm for contouring but when applied on the face it does not show that warm on my skin tone. It’s very creamy, easy to blend out and stays nicely for 5-6 hrs.

Tarte The Slenderizer Bamboo Contouring Brush: This is the cutest mini brush you would ever see… and it totally works! It’s very useful in placing the contour color. I was also able to blend the tarte contour I got with this set. I did have to go back with a more fluffy brush to blend it more. 

Points to complain about: We all need to write a petition to Sephora requesting them not to include “They're Real! Mascara” in each and every value set :-P It’s not a horrible product but I don’t want to see the same old products repeated in these sets (e.g., Too Faced Melted Peony Liquid Lipstick, Sephora Cream Lip Stain in Peony, Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer etc.). I also wish they’d include a blush or maybe a lip product instead of 2 mascaras and 2 highlighters. That would have made this the most perfect value set for this holiday season! But it still is a great set. Out of the 13 products, 8 are full size and they are some of the most loved products available in Sephora. Apart from MUFE, rests of the mini products are also decently sized. I am thoroughly enjoying at least 70% of the products, and performance wise not one product has disappointed me. Overall, this is a set worth looking into :-)

What have you been shopping for the holiday season? :-)


Friday, October 23, 2015

Durga Puja in the Windy City!!

Xubha Bijoyadoxomi folks! For the last few days, various parts of India have been celebrating the festival of Dusshera or DurgaPuja. I am from Assam and there we call it "Durga Puja"! This Indian festival spans the first 10 days, but celebrated primarily from 6th to the 10th day of the bright lunar fortnight in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, It's an annual affair where we celebrate the power of GOOD over evil. This religious festival marks the victory of Hindu Goddess Durga over the evil and terrifying Buffalo demon Mahishasura! Apart from the religious significance it's an occasion to celebrate life with family and friends, adorning self with new clothes and indulging in lot of sweet and savory delicious eats! Every year different puja committees attempt to create the most unique idols to present the story of Durga and Mahishasura fight! It's a 3-day holiday back home and even with the busy work-week I have been having here it’s almost impossible to miss the excitement and state of happiness that grips the entire state during these festivities! It has made me very nostalgic! The chaos, infinite number of people hopping from pandal to pandal in their beautiful new dresses, sounds of bangles, toy guns, kids playing with whistles, and of course unbelievable traffic congestion! The sound of dhol and dhak, the warm cozy agarbati fragrances, the Diya lightings and red sindur bindis...I miss! I miss the chaos and I miss those hundreds of people! I miss assisting mom in the kitchen, I miss how she always buys a few big balloons while pandal hopping and then carries them home ...I miss getting dressed up with my sister, I miss my father's smile when he tries the new kurta we forcefully gifted him and refuses to admit that he actually really really likes it!!
It's not Durga Puja untill you have hazzy yellowish click in front of the mandap :-)
Last two year I have been visiting India on vacation around this time and it was incredible! Naturally I have been extremely nostalgic :-) But the best way to fight it is to try to make the most of what you have! So, I got together with the very few friends I have in Chicago and planned to attend a Puja being organized in a nearby city. In the hopes of being able to return home early I reached work by 6 am this morning! Me and my friend were overly excited to wear our ethnic dresses as we don’t get enough occasions to wear them! She wore a beautiful beautiful Assam Silk Mekhela Sador in Maroon and Beige! And I sported a Cotton and wool mixed Mekhela Sador in vibrant purple hand woven by my incredibly talented mom! I was delighted to see same type of God and Goddess idols in the Puja that I would see in home. The atmosphere was not as chaotic and noisy as I am used to but it was really nice. It was peaceful and homely! The food served after the Aarti which is known as "bhog" was incredible. But of course, we were still hungry so when we got back, both of us quickly whipped up a few items for a simple yet scrumptious dinner! Here you can see Assamese style Ghuguni and Fula Luci, that we made, and the Jalepis that were brought from store! Jalepi is a quintessential Durga Puja celebration sweet! You gotta have jalepis! Overall, the day went mighty fine :-) I am not an overly religious person, but the happiness and celebratory mode this festivity brings about is what matters the most!!

Puja in Santa Clara (pc: Awesome friends) :-)
Puja in Santa Clara (pc: Awesome friends) :-)

Happy Puja folks! Hope you enjoyed and I wish everyone of you a prosperous and fun filled year ahead!!!